So, About ~That~ Vulture Op-Ed…

Last week, a post on Vulture.com was making the rounds in the Bookstagram community, and you may have seen it. I’m linking it here, but it honestly doesn’t deserve any extra clicks, so let me refresh your memory:

1

Over the past several years, we book lovers have endured quite a bit. First there were the rainbow-hued shelves, (dis)organized by color, aesthetically pleasing but mayhem for anyone desperately hunting for one of Meg Wolitzer’s kaleidoscopically spined books. Then came the backlash to that biblio-psychedelia: books shelved spine-in, with the Scandi modern sensibility reigning supreme across a field of tawny pages, unbroken in their neutral uniformity and utterly useless as texts that one might, you know, pick up and read. (I once encountered a woman in Domino magazine who covered all her books with kraft paper and then elegantly scrawled the titles on the sides. God bless the childless.)

Well, that’s definitely a solid opening paragraph that doesn’t make the author sound condescending and bitter at all. Hillary Kelly then goes on to detail some of the specific Bookstagram trends which irk her for varying reasons, from the flat lays she describes as “cozy little scenes of domesticity that bear no resemblance to real-life moments,” (duh, that’s why it’s art, Hillary. You can take a picture of your book on your kitchen table next to last night’s pizza crusts if you want, but nobody wants to see that) to the cozy bed pictures with the “camera pointed directly down at tousled sheets, a book flipped over as if set down for just a moment, a cup of steaming coffee set to one side, wool-sock-clad feet in the frame but not a hint of pants.” theslowtraveler

Her argument essentially boils down to this: the books feel like an afterthought in these pictures to her. Sometimes you can’t see the cover. Perhaps the bookstagrammer doesn’t even bother to tell you what book it is. (For shame!) And it all leads her to this terrifying conclusion: these bookstagrammers, these people who devote hours of their time on a regular basis to taking these photos, these people who curate a social media account devoted solely to their love of books… these people totally aren’t reading. Obviously, they’re faking it for attention on Instagram!

Because they aren’t really books, you see, they’re suggestions of books, hints of how utterly devoted the Instagrammer is to her literary pursuits. I can’t pick just one book, the photos scream, and instead I shall lay myself prostrate across their textured pages to meld my body with their words, for I am a person of the mind! They’re just another object, shorn of meaning and sometimes of binding, rearranged to show that their possessors’ lives are prettier, more whimsical, more creative than yours. These people are beautiful literary hermits, dammit, Brontë sisters wandering the wild moors of the inside of your iPhone, seekers of beauty and truth and a shit ton of unearned likes.

33d

Okay, it should go without saying that this is asinine. I’m not one for angry rants on here (I save those for my husband because he’s sort of obligated to care about them) and I was more than willing to let this one go with an eye-roll and a snort. That is, until I started seeing some posts from people in the book blogging community whose feelings seem to be genuinely hurt by this article. Let me tell you this: Hillary Kelly does not deserve that amount of space in your brain. It is not warranted. amyflyingakite.PNG

First of all, can we talk about how gendered this is? Sure, these types of photos are very popular with female Instagrammers (although the book blogging community seems to skew towards women in general, so I don’t think that’s saying much) but Kelly’s exclusive use of female pronouns throughout her diatribe feels rather telling. While Kelly is mad about the “long and storied history of people using books as props,” I’m far more concerned about the long and storied history of people knocking anything that seems to be more popular with women, no matter how harmless. And no, Kelly is not immune from being called out on this just because she’s a woman. Girl, you’ve internalized some toxic stuff and you need to get it sorted.

Side note: James Trevino was the first Instagrammer I saw using this photo technique. I’m not saying he necessarily invented it, but he certainly helped to popularize it. I was seeing his photos all over online before I ever made an Instagram account. Now that a bunch of women have jumped on the bandwagon, it’s suddenly super problematic and a sign of some deep character flaw? Okay. #himtoo

trevino.PNG

Furthermore, it seems ridiculously asinine to complain that content on a website that is highly focused on image has a lot of photos that are carefully curated for a specific image. Do people post book reviews and have discussions on Instagram? Sure, to an extent, but the structure of the website does not make it the best place for that. The focus is, of course, on the photos. That’s a product of the website, not a sign of a character flaw in the people participating. When people log onto a website that primarily serves the purpose of hosting photos… they want to see pretty photos. (Shocking!) If you want to read some in-depth book reviews, I’m over here on WordPress, girl.

But all these issues aside, I just have to ask this: who exactly is being harmed by these photos? What truly bothers me about this is that the book blogging community is one of the only places you’ll find online that tends to be very positive and uplifting. Is there sometimes drama? Sure, because humans are involved so it’s inevitable, but book bloggers are, for the most part, just super excited to share their love of books with the world. We want to talk about our favorites and count down the days to highly anticipated releases. We want to connect with people who are like-minded. So why someone would want to take a shot at one of the most overwhelmingly positive and supporting communities online is beyond me.

Hillary Kelly, from start to finish, your op-ed sounds like the rantings of a bitter blogger who’s upset about the fact that their flatlay didn’t get enough likes on Instagram. It’s pretentious, judgmental, and smug. You have made assumptions about the intelligence and authenticity of people based purely on the style of photos they like to take. And you’ve targeted a group of (mainly) female readers over how they choose to express their love of literature. It’s gross, unnecessary, and the epitome of Not A Good Look.

In conclusion, here’s a little photo I took just for you, Hillary. So sorry you can’t see any of the covers so you can decide if I have good enough taste to be taken seriously.

f off

Capture2

Other places to follow me…
Tumblr | Facebook | Instagram | GoodReads

Fiction Pet Peeves

Hello, friends! I’m in a grumpy Monday kind of mood, so today I’m going to talk about some of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to fiction. Let me know some of yours in the comments. What little things immediately pull you out of a scene and make you cringe? In no particular order, here are some of mine…

Over-use of Slang to Establish Setting or Mood

A prime example of this for me is Libba Bray’s Diviners series. This series seems to be super beloved in the book blogging community, and I’m not trying to trash it as a whole. I enjoyed the story itself well enough, but it got to the point where it sometimes felt like every other word was “fella” or “doll.” With a lot of authors, slang is so overused that it makes their characters feel like caricatures. Pepper in just a little bit of it and call it a day; otherwise it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Insta-love

Love at first sight can be cute and done well, it’s just that it usually… isn’t. Just because the characters fall in love quickly doesn’t mean the audience doesn’t need to see the reasons they love each other. Even worse, however, is when characters who hate one another seemingly flip overnight because searing hated seems to be confused with sexual tension. Relationships between characters take as much development as the characters themselves; there are no shortcuts with this. This seems particularly prominent in YA, but I think it bothers me less in that context because I think a lot of teens are constantly “falling in love” at the drop of a hat. (I’m not judging; I was totally guilty of this.)

Gorgeous Female Characters made “Relatable” by Making Them Clumsy

Why is this such a trope? Authors write a gorgeous female protagonist (bonus points if she’s somehow blissfully unaware that she’s even remotely acceptable looking) who seems to be desired by all the male characters in sight. Then faced with the question of how to make this character feel more flawed and relatable, nine times out of ten, they just make her physically and/or socially awkward. Female characters can be flawed in just as many ways as male characters. It’s time to branch out a bit.

Male Authors with No Idea How to Write a Human Woman

We’ve all read books with female characters that would never have been written by a woman. The most recent book that had this effect on me was Artemis, by Andy Weir. I was in love with The Martian so I bought Artemis when it came out without even reading the blurb first. Then I started reading, and the female protagonist was… Mark Watney 2.0. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Mark Watney, but if I want to read about him, I can just read The Martian again. In Artemis, 99% of his personality was just imposed onto Jazz, and I couldn’t stop hearing Mark Watney’s voice through the whole book. It definitely pulled me out of the novel and diminished my ability to enjoy what was actually a pretty fun heist story.

Protagonists Internally Monologuing about Their Appearance

This is just lazy writing. We’ve all read scenes where the protagonist wakes up in the morning and goes to the bathroom mirror to begin getting ready for their day. They then take this opportunity to list all of their features for the reader’s benefit. (Bonus points if this is combined with the previous bullet point, where a male author can’t write women, and the protagonist proceeds to describe herself in an awkwardly sexual tone. No. Just no.)

A lot of the time, this awkward method of relaying information isn’t even giving us information that we need. A story doesn’t often require the reader to have an in-depth understanding of each character’s appearance. Things that impact how the character interacts with the world in a meaningful way should, of course, be prioritized. Is the character living in a society that’s racist towards their particular demographic? Are they ridiculously attractive or unattractive? Average and forgettable? Super short? This is information we probably need. What we don’t need is a female protagonist admiring the curve of her own hip as she stands in front of a full-length mirror in a nightgown. (Seriously, why do men write these kinds of scenes?)

Toxic, Creepy Relationships in YA

It’s 2018 and I’m still mad about Twilight, you guys. But honestly, petition for a genre marketed to young girls to stop romanticizing stalking, controlling behavior, men with anger issues, ridiculous power imbalances, etc. Give teenage girls healthy relationships as examples. Give teenage girls examples of female characters running the other way when they see these giant red flags waving all over the place.

pexels-photo-261909.jpeg

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these were some things that were on my mind today. Let’s discuss in the comments! What are some of your biggest pet peeves? Do you feel differently about any of the things I’ve listed here?

Thanks for reading!

Capture2

Other places to follow me…
Tumblr | Facebook | Instagram | GoodReads

On the Value of Negative Reviews

When I first started blogging, I didn’t give much thought to writing negative reviews. I was excited to discuss books that I love and share them with other people. I wanted to gush about Neil Gaiman books, talk about the latest film adaptations of books I love, and get hyped up about new releases.

37670617_215131999339311_6585481098782834688_n

32940867And sure, there’s been plenty of that, but lately, I’ve been thinking about the necessary evil of writing… less than glowing reviews. Sometimes these are easy to write; I gleefully tore into Stephenie Meyer’s The Chemist on this blog a while back, and I have no regrets. Stephenie Meyer is enjoying heaps of success and I can be relatively sure her eyes will never cross my little blog. Stephenie Meyer absolutely does not care what I think, and that’s fine by me.

But when the writer in question is an indie author, the situation becomes fraught. If the book only has 5 or 10 reviews up on GoodReads and you’re the first naysayer in the crowd, it becomes difficult not to picture the author’s face when they inevitably read a review that can essentially be summed up with this gif:

I don’t want to take the wind out of anyone’s sails, least of all someone who is just getting started in a writing career. I try to ask myself with each review, “Who would enjoy this book?” But what do I say when the only answer that comes to mind is, “No one?”

Ultimately, I think it comes down to this: there are two inherent agreements in running a book review blog. In accepting review copies of books, we agree to read and review them. Full stop. Bloggers may be used as a marketing tool, but we are not at the beck and call of the author’s marketing team.

The second unspoken agreement is equally important, and that is with our readers. I will never recommend that you spend your time and money on a book that I don’t believe deserves it. In the interest of keeping my reviews balanced, I generally try to find something nice to say about every book; surely every book has done something right. But I will never waste my readers’ time in the interest of sparing an author’s feelings.

I’ve sometimes seen drama over on GoodReads, when negative reviews are met with people lashing out about “haters.” No book will appeal to every reader. Dismissing every naysayer as a “hater” is ultimately missing the point. Are there pointlessly negative reviews which don’t offer any analysis, but simply choose 15 or 20 different ways to say “I hated this?” Sure. But if a reviewer is articulating why book didn’t work for them, they are providing valuable information for other readers, regardless of their personal taste. Maybe they gave it two stars because the whole story revolved a trope they can’t stand, like love triangles, but love triangles are totally up your alley. Then grab that book and have a blast! And appreciate the fact that another reviewer took the time to let you know what was in store.

Happy reading, everyone! Here’s hoping there are many five star books in your future!

Capture2.PNG

Thanks for reading, friends! I’d love to hear from you in the comments! Do you feel uncomfortable when posting negative reviews? How do you deal with these?

Other places to follow me…
Tumblr | Facebook | Instagram | GoodReads

Feel-Good Books for When You’re Feeling Down

Sometimes the world feels like a dumpster fire and you’re in desperate need of a comfy book to give you a case of the warm-and-fuzzies. Look no further, friends! Here are some fluffy books to help raise your spirits.

(Side note: Briana the Bookworm inspired me to [finally] finish this list. She has a lovely book blog and you can check out her list of feel-good books here!)

feelgood.png

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepperby Phaedra Patrick
Arthur Pepper goes on a whimsical adventure to discover more about the life of his late wife from before they met. This is a book for fans of A Man Called Ove who are in need of a story somewhat less likely to rip your heart out.

Goodbye, Paris, by Anstey Harris
Grace has spent years content to be the Other Woman before circumstances and people who love her force her to examine her life. This is a story of a woman belatedly coming into her own and finding a sense of self worth through friendship and her love of music. Sometimes hitting rock bottom is the only way to rebuild a better life.

Capture

Edgedancer, by Brandon Sanderson
This is an offshoot of The Stormlight Archive, but could be read as a standalone book. An enchanting high fantasy story, this revolves around Lift, a pre-teen girl with magic powers who is an utterly delightful side character in the main series. Follow her in her quest for answers and also pancakes… lots of pancakes.

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
In the mood for a classic? Tolkien’s famous children’s book is suitable for all ages. While LOTR is a large, sweeping fantasy, this smaller book is some hobbit-sized fun. Complete with talking dragons and singing dwarves, this will nurture your inner child.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
This one has more than a touch of darkness; Nobody Owens is the last surviving member of his family, but he’s been raised and nurtured by the friendly ghosts in the graveyard where he lives. The Graveyard Book has adventure and danger, and will help you find whimsy in the darkness.

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, by Christina Lauren
Or maybe romance is more your jam? This is a new release from the writers of Roomies coming September 4th. When Hazel first meets Josh, it’s at a drunken college party where she promptly throws up on his shoes. Well, that’s about as far from a meet-cute as you can get. But ten years later, when they meet up again, Hazel is determined for them to be Best Friends. Just friends, though, obviously. Right?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling
When all else fails, return to childhood comforts. Relive all the magic with the Boy Who Lived. Because it’s never too late to get your Hogwarts letter. Really, though, this entry is a stand-in for whatever your personal favorite book was as a kid. For me, Harry connects me to what first sparked my love of reading. What do you think of when you ask yourself what made you a bookworm? Rereading that book will always feel like going home.

tumblr_pcyk1iTyzm1xuuvabo1_1280

The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
“Is this a kissing book?” Why, yes, yes it is. Dive into a fantastical adventure with giants, princesses, rodents of unusual size, and true love. (Side note, this is one of those rare gems where the movie does the source material justice. If you’re not feeling up to reading, pop some popcorn and soak it all in on screen.)

The Martian, by Andy Weir
If you’re the type to chase away the blues with laughter, especially a bit of gallows humor, this is the obvious choice. Mark Watney opens his story by telling you he’s “pretty much f****d.” What follows is his quest for survival against all odds, punctuated by technical ramblings and comic book references. The Martian is a treasure for any self-described nerd.

Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Looking for a self help-esque book to give you a burst of positivity and inspiration? Big Magic is all about a quasi-spiritual connection with the arts and having the courage to create. Your art doesn’t have to be great; it doesn’t even have to be good. Big Magic urges you to create whatever moves you, purely for the simple joy of creation.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
One last classic to round off the list! This book is absolutely bonkers, but I’ll let you in on a little secret… all the best books are.

Thank you for reading, and I hope this post gave you some inspiration for when you need a little pick-me-up! Do you have any favorite mood-enhancing books? Share in the comments!

Capture2

You can also follow me TumblrFacebook, or GoodReads!

 

June Wrap-Up and July TBR

Hello again, friends! How did June go by so fast?!?

I hope everyone is having a great summer so far! I have a birthday coming up on the 4th and I don’t have to work (yay for birthdays on national holidays.) I’m looking forward to sleeping in and grilling out. And hopefully curling up with a good book for a few hours, of course.

In June I read…

Most of these books were given full reviews on my blog this month; links are below. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and Tied to Deceit will also be up at later date. Stay tuned! 🙂

This Is How It Always Is
Strange the Dreamer
Not Her Daughter
Swear On This Life
The Space Between
My Real Name Is Hanna 
The Hate U Give
Circe
The Pearl That Broke Its Shell
The Death of Mrs. Westaway 

My Real Name is Hanna probably made the biggest impression out of all of the books I read this month. This was a YA historical fiction novel about a young Jewish girl surviving during the Holocaust. It deals with a lot of difficult topics but still never feels overwhelmingly dreary; it feels like a story primarily about hope.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway was perhaps the biggest disappointment. Ruth Ware, I love you, but please pull back a little bit on the foreshadowing. I don’t need flashing neon signs leading me to the conclusion of a mystery novel; a whispered hint here and there is enough. This was particularly disappointing because I loved a lot of other aspects of the novel, particularly the protagonist.

On to July…

This is (hopefully) far from all-inclusive, but these are the books next up on my TBR. I (finally) started Battle Royale, which was on last month’s list before I got sidetracked with ARCs. Oops. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is my book club’s selection this month. I’m not sure it’s something I would have picked out for myself, but I’ve seen it recommended to anyone who enjoyed A Man Called Ove, and I adored that book beyond words.

I’m most looking forward to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I bought this one after telling myself  I’d stop buying any new books until I got a bit more caught up on all the unread books I already own. I saw too many glowing reviews and I couldn’t help myself. Call it an early birthday present to myself.

I also recently got my first Book of the Month shipment, so hopefully I’ll find time for these books this month:

tumblr_pb03cdGFev1xuuvabo1_1280.jpg

Happy reading, everyone! What was your favorite book you read in June? What are you most looking forward to reading in July? Share in the comments!

Top Ten – Favorite Quotes

Hello, friends! Today I wanted to share some of my favorite book quotes with you!

pexels-photo-320266.jpeg

Without further ado, in no particular order…

“I turned my nightmares into fireflies and caught them in a jar.”
Laini Taylor, Strange the Dreamer

15783514

“Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”
Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

“Anyone can love a thing because. That’s as easy as putting a penny in your pocket.
But to love something despite. To know the flaws and love them too. That is rare and pure and perfect.”
Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man’s Fear

“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

a man called ove

“We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.”
Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove

“Living every day in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage”
Min Jin Lee, Pachinko

“What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”
Neil Gaiman, American Gods

“And then like Pandora, opening the great big box of the world and not being afraid, not even caring whether what’s inside is good or bad. Because it’s both. Everything is always both. But you have to open it to find that out.”
M.R. Carey, The Girl with All the Gifts

974154

“But remember that forgiveness too is a power. To beg for it is a power, and to withhold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest.
Maybe none of this is about control. Maybe it isn’t really about who can own whom, who can do what to whom and get away with it, even as far as death. Maybe it isn’t about who can sit and who has to kneel or stand or lie down, legs spread open. Maybe it’s about who can do what to whom and be forgiven for it. Never tell me it amounts to the same thing.”
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

“It doesn’t matter that she shouldn’t, that she never would. What matters is that she could, if she wanted. The power to hurt is a kind of wealth.”
Naomi Alderman, The Power

flourish

Please share your thoughts in the comments. What are some of your favorite literary quotes? Were any of your favorites included here?

Connect with me via Tumblr or Facebook!

When is too soon to DNF?

Hello, all! I hope you’re having a great Monday.

Today, instead of a review, I wanted to talk about leaving books unfinished.

The last book I failed to finish was Dune, by Frank Herbert. I adore sci-fi, and this book is so well-loved, so it pains me to say that I could not make myself get into it. I quit just short of the halfway point. I realized that I had invested my time with wooden characters, none of whom I could connect with, and their story, which felt like the literary equivalent of slogging through knee-deep sands on Dune itself.

In short: it was not for me.

saraha desert
Photo by Carl Larson on Pexels.com

I think it’s important to give every book a fair shot. If I dropped every book that hadn’t fully engaged my interest within a chapter or two, there are some really beautiful stories I would have missed. The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson, has such intricate world building. It is, by necessity, slow at times, but I’ve read and reread that book without ever feeling the urge to put it down. Something about Dune was different for me, though. It felt very much like it was prioritizing the world building over the story. The vignettes of historical documents also removed any tension from the story. It’s one thing to assume that the hero will come out on top because heroes often do; it’s quite another to be simply told that he will.

I’ve slogged through so many books that failed to live up to my expectations, waiting for them to get better on each and every page. More and more, I find myself unable to do that. There are so many books sitting on my shelf that I’m genuinely excited about reading, and I only have time for so many of them.

So, let’s discuss!

What was the last book you didn’t finish and why?

Is there a cardinal sin that will make you drop a book every time?

How soon is too soon to call it quits?

How much of a book do you need to read to feel you can give it a fair review?

If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.

-Oscar Wilde